Somewhere Something (Někde něco)
This was one of the most significant exhibitions held at the Václav Špála Gallery in Prague under the curatorial guidance of Jindřich Chalupecký (who led the gallery along with an exhibition committee in 1965−70). The curator, Jiří Padrta, invited two exceptional married couples to take part in it: Jiří Kolář and Běla Kolářová, along with Jan Ságl and Zorka Ságlová.
Kolářová created playful assemblages, objects and small installations from various foodstuffs, just as she had used small utility objects (staples, snaps, and buttons) in her arranged photographs. She worked with objects that are traditionally perceived as women-role attributes; at this exhibition she hung on the wall cellophane-wrapped gingerbread hearts in order from smallest to largest Heart (Narůstání srdce), a pile of pears was installed on the floor – Pear Pyramid (Hrušková pyramida). Jiří Kolář, the acclaimed Czech poet who in the 1960s abandoned poetry and developed several visual techniques and became one of the most important figures on the Czech art scene, presented some of his collages and assemblages. On the first floor, Kolář exhibited the monumental environment Chameleon consisting of washtubs with a washboard, tin buckets, a painting turned to face the wall, a laurel wreath, and several other elements. The installation was to change color several times – one day the objects were to be painted white and the walls black, the next day both black, the following day the objects black and the walls white and the fourth both white. In fact, two of these variants were carried out – completely white and completely black. Since the exhibition took place during the first anniversary of the occupation of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact troops, one interpretation could be that the Chameleon’s transformation during the exhibition was a commentary on the political situation.
On the ground floor, photographer Jan Ságl exhibited black and white blow-up pictures documenting Zorka Ságlová’s Throwing Balls into Průhonice’s Bořín Lake (Házení míčů do průhonického rybníka Bořín, 1969), and photographs taken at the psychedelic beat concerts of The Primitives Group and The Plastic People of the Universe, whose stages were artistically designed by Jan and Zorka, along with Ivan M. Jirous and Věra Jirousová. Thanks to this connection with the music scene, and by hosting a Plastic People of the Universe concert as part of the exhibition directly in the gallery, the exhibition drew many people who would have otherwise never come to the gallery space. The most provocative piece at the exhibition was Zorka Ságlová’s environment Hay – Straw (Seno – sláma, 1969) which took up the space of both basement rooms. Ságlová, a young artist then experimenting with happenings and other forms of expression that were current at that time, had many stacks of yellow hay and green alfalfa brought into the gallery space. In one room, she constructed various platforms made of hay on which one could sit or lay down. Throughout the duration of the exhibition, the second room served as a place to turn over and dry the hay. The participants could thus feel as if they were on a field, could rake and stack hay, take a rest after the hard work, and enjoy the smell, so incongruous to the city centre.
Overall, the exhibition was essentially a collage of objects, an environment straddling everyday reality and the world of art. From today’s perspective it is considered one of the most radical exhibitions of the 1960s, both in form and content.
Jiří Padrta’s 1969 text about the exhibition
Pavlína Morganová – Terezie Nekvindová – Dagmar Svatošová, Výstava jako médium. České umění 1957−1999, AVU, Prague 2020, pp. 462-473.
Milada Motlová (ed.), Jiří Kolář, Odeon, Prague, 1993.
Jan Ságl, Dancing on the Double Ice, Kant, Prague, 2009.
Pavlína Morganová, Czech Action Art / Happenings, Actions, Events, Land Art, Body Art and Performance Art Behind the Iron Curtain, Karolinum Press, Prague, 2014.
Pavlína Morganová, A Walk Through Prague: Actions, Performances, Happenings, 1949−1989, VVP AVU, Praha 2017.
Jiří Kolář, A User’s Manual, Twisted Spoon Press, 2019.
Date: 14 – 31 August 1969
Curator: Jiří Padrta (1929-1978)
Participants: Jiří Kolář (1914–2002), Běla Kolářová (1923–2010), Zorka Ságlová (1942), Jan Ságl (1942)
Location: Václav Špála Gallery, Prague